Don and Kaye Kole Fund

Don and Kaye Kole were actively involved in Savannah’s economic, cultural, and social life from the time they were married over 60 years ago.

Don was born on September 20, 1930, in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Abraham and Beatrice (Wittenberg) Kowalsky. He graduated from Boston University in 1952, and was serving in the military at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, when he met Kaye. Kaye Robinson was born in Savannah to Samuel Robinson and Kate Holitser Robinson on December 10, 1935. She graduated from Savannah High School in 1952 attended the University of Miami for two years before their marriage.

Don and Kaye met at the old Desoto Beach Motel on Tybee Island. They married on January 1, 1955, in Savannah, and have two children, Jeff and Deborah. In order to keep the couple from moving, Kaye’s parents offered Don a position in the family business, Bay Street Lumber. It eventually became Builderama. The Koles sold the business in 1986.

Kaye graduated from Armstrong State University in 1975, majoring in English and minoring in library science. She worked as a librarian and researcher, and was a board-certified genealogist. She was a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

The Koles were long-time supporters of the Live Oak Public Libraries, with Don serving on the Foundation board and Kaye serving on the Board of Trustees of the library system. In 2002 the Genealogy Room at Savannah’s Bull Street Library was named in honor of Kaye. She was the founder of the Savannah Jewish Archives and was a curator of the Georgia Historical Society, the American Jewish Historical Society, the Savannah Area Genealogical Association, and the Southern Jewish Historical Society. Both Don and Kaye were actively involved with Congregation Mickve Israel.

Kaye is the co-author of Voices of Savannah: Selections from the Oral History Collection of the Savannah Jewish Archives (Savannah Jewish Archives, 2004), The Jewish Community of Savannah: Images of America (Arcadia, 2002), and author of The Minis Family of Georgia, 1733-1992 (GHS, 1992). She also authored several articles on Jewish genealogy.

Don has served the Georgia Historical Society as President, Vice President, Treasurer, Curator, and fundraiser. He has also served on the boards of numerous Savannah institutions, including Union Mission, Hospice Savannah, the Armstrong Foundation, King-Tisdell Museum, United Way, the Jewish Educational Alliance, and the Savannah Jewish Federation.

The Koles were inveterate travelers and enjoy spending time with their grandchildren. Don’s extensive and renowned private collection of African art has been exhibited at Armstrong’s Fine Arts Gallery and at the Georgia Museum of Art and is now on display at the Savannah African Art Museum, opened in 2019.

In 2001, Don and Kaye Kole demonstrated their lifelong love and support of the Georgia Historical Society by establishing the Don and Kaye Kole Endowment Fund. Kaye died in Savannah on December 3, 2021, at the age of 85, and is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. Their strong belief and commitment to Georgia history education will continue in perpetuity.